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Showing 1-10 of 20 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 42 reviews
on August 3, 2016
"The cage is empty; the mind has flown." This is how Charles Nicholl ends his biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Nicholl seeks the real Leonardo, not the hagiographic Renaissance superman; indeed, while he concedes you cannot write about Leonardo without using the word "genius," he avoids it at all costs. To Nicholl, Leonardo is a complex man just like any other. Born out of wedlock, he has at best a distant relationship with his father. His career is marked more by what he does not complete than by what he does. His greatest works, The Last Supper, the Mona Lisa, and perhaps a fresco we will never see, were never completed. His insatiable curiosity constantly leads him to new projects, which will themselves be abandoned. He is private, yet theatrical, and possibly a little flamboyant.

Nicholl presents a humane picture of Leonardo in a compelling, witty, gripping fashion, with moments of slight romanticism and Nicholl's own wistful reflections and longing interpretations, sometimes seeing what he admittedly wants to see.

Perhaps my favorite moment in the book is a summary in which Leonardo spends on jaunts to the hills of Pisa, in conversation with Macchiavelli, and studying math with one of the great Italian Renaissance mathematicians. As Nicholl drily suggests, not a bad way to spend a summer. Inspirational to those of us who live across the ocean 500 years later.
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on June 18, 2014
A fresh look at Leonardo, no hagiography, but well researched and informative biography. There will always be a certain mythology surrounding this person, but that doesn't matter so much anymore if you can balance it out by books like these. I am reading this on my Ereader and the only thing I am dissapointed with is the poor resolution of the images that are supplied.
(And that's not even due to the publisher, I presume, but has more to do with the Kindle itself). I haven't finished reading, so I am not sure if a timeline is seperately provided. Dates, times, places, people and products/activities, perhaps a surprise when I reach the end (Haven't looked up the TOC either)
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on July 12, 2013
This book is long, and at times, it lulls. The story wanders a bit, and it is not always told chronologically. This can make it tough to follow at times.

However, despite this, Flights of the Mind (in my opinion) stands alone as the greatest combined work regarding Da Vinci which includes both narrative and academic terms.
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on May 29, 2017
Charles Nicholl has a clear understanding of Leonardo's life and his notebooks. With all of the biographies of Leonardo out there, this still ranks near the top. Comprehensive coverage of Leonardo's life for over 600 pages.
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on December 7, 2014
Recently went to Italy and found book very useful.
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on January 13, 2014
I just returned from a trip to Italy and found this book fascinating. It explained so many of the things that I had seen, I wish I had read it before I went! In addition to explaining many of Leonard's paintings it goes into the history of Italy during the renaissance. Lots of stuff I wish I had learned in history class but was never taught!!! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!!
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on January 11, 2016
Tends toward TMI, but golden nuggets aplenty for those who are willing to invest and time to locate.
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on March 8, 2017
Great book even for those without much prior history in the subject.
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on March 13, 2014
A rather academic tome, which makes it a bit dry and very detailed but interesting to those who like historical biographical detective work. You can't deny the fascination of Leonardo's life and mind
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on November 13, 2016
Charles Nicholl writes as much about the surrounding culture of L. da Vinci, as he does of the main character - brings that time in history alive.
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